Pizza is all about context
People who debate about whether or not this or that pizza is the best in the world are missing the point.
Pizza is all about context. It’s different in different places because it needs to be. It reflects the unique lifestyle of a particular area.
Here’s how I see the two styles I’m most familiar with: NYC and Buffalo
Thin, wide, flat, lots of surface area. Dry, dusty, charred (in places) crust. Fold it, always fold it, but watch out for that grease trough you just made; it’ll get on your favorite sweats and leave a stain; stuff a napkin back there, or better yet, sop up that grease with a few paper towel pats to begin with.
You eat it on the go; you just arrived for a weekend tryst, hungry and cramped from sitting in a plane, then a car, for hours. You need to get to the hotel, arena, playhouse, friend’s apartment, whatever, or you’ll “be late”; there’s always that delay of game penalty you’re running from.
You’re in between things; just been shopping but have some time to kill before the opening. You’re tired; walking all day will do that. You stumble across a glassy exterior with those levels of steamy goodness calling to you from the interior. People are standing in line. In you go, “a slice of plain please”. Whatever the word for pizza chef wields an enormous wooden paddle, slings a cold slice into gigantic steel multitiered cavern, from which emerges your piping hot slice. You shake on a mountain of flavor from the “free toppings tray” as my friend Kip always called it—garlic salt, parmesan cheese, oregano and crushed red pepper—and off you go, back into the maelstrom.
NYC Pizza is NYC. It’s delicious, hot, messy, and made for the constant onslaught of the masses, hungry and late, needing a full, hot belly to keep up.
Fat. Doughy. Thick. Soggy, but with crispy bits strategically implemented throughout; the edges of the pepperoni, the apex of the crust, which when examined resembles the surface the moon.
You’re at a gathering: a party, an event, a celebration, and expecting to eat something. You’re pretty hungry, hangry is more like it. After all, this is Buffalo. People get hangry a lot, driving to and from these gatherings, usually through layers of ice and wind that coat everything.
Eating is a respite. I don’t know how much I want; I just want to dive in. Show me to the party; let me get my party on.
You don’t buy a slice in Buffalo. You buy a pizza. It’s either a party pizza, or a sheet, or a half sheet. It doesn’t come round; if it does, it’s usually kinda squarish, like they are so used to doing angles and can’t shake off the muscle memory for the rare round order.
The pizza is cut up into little chunks. Nothing, really. So easy to grab another one. So likely a perfect bowl of heaven will reside there: that quarter sphere of pepperoni, the rim brown-almost-black, remnants of a combination of olive oil and liquid lard swirled at the bottom, so small it is likely completely uncut, posted there in glory on a field of mozzarella.
What’s that, over there? Wings! Of course. Let’s grab a few of those; some blue cheese as a rule. Oops; my pizza dropped into my dip (or was it the other way around? Queue the old Reeses PBC commercials). All the better; the tang of blue cheese is an amazing complement to the sweet, spiciness of Margherita pepperoni-laden Buffalo style pizza.
Pizza is too general a term for that staple of our diets, and can’t be compared from one region to another. It’s all about how we eat it.